From Atlanta to Anchorage, eight leaders from PRSA’s Counselors Academy share their 2021 expectations for agency leaders and senior communications managers. Enjoy the sage advice from these leaders who have succeeded at converting disruptions into opportunities.
“If the meta-crisis we call 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the best-laid crisis plans only go so far when it feels like the entire world and American society are on fire simultaneously.
Leaders in the coming year should be taking a lesson from the global health community and working to better immunize their operations and workforces against crises — pandemic or otherwise. Organizations that devote time and effort to actively avoiding crises, rather than planning for them and hoping for the best, will be giving themselves a powerful shot in the arm, one that will continue to pay immeasurable financial and reputational dividends long after the virus has been controlled.“
— Jon Goldberg, Chief Reputation Architect, Reputation Architects, New York, and 2021 Chair of Counselors Academy
“Trying to nail down expectations for 2021 is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. Slippery, messy and likely comical. I don’t know about expectations, but I do have hopes for 2021. I hope we keep the humanity we’ve been forced to infuse into our meetings, communications and programming. I hope we continue to recognize the realness of kid interruptions and cats on keyboards and the delicate balance of family, friends and career. I hope we continue to pursue the connectivity between us at all levels — and as communicators that is exactly what we are perfectly poised to do.”
— Rebecca Holmes, Founding Partner, Kiterocket, Seattle
“I’m trying not to have too many expectations for 2021. As we move into the new year and closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, I imagine we’ll all try to navigate how we move forward, in life and at work. Virtual offices will continue, but many will be hybrid as people and creatives crave being together safely in offices. The economic realities will continue to be challenging and our industry will continue to be resilient, leaning heavily into digital content. I see 2021 as a rebuilding year, everything from replenishing our dwindling cash reserves to rejuvenating morale and the mental health of our teams.”
— Jennifer Thompson, President/CEO, Thompson & Co. Public Relations, Anchorage, Alaska
“I expect the need for vulnerability in leadership, and a willingness to destigmatize mental health conversations, will be critical moving into 2021. Personal and professional lines will continue to be blurred, as will those between clients and agencies, in-house and vendors, reporters and sources.
As we all strive to heal from 2020, the need for relationship-building will be as important as ever, and we can lead those conversations if we’re willing to be uncomfortable and do the work. We can’t be complicit in returning to what was. We must lead toward a more just and sustainable workplace and future.”
— Kate Snyder, APR, Founder, Piper & Gold Public Relations, Lansing, Mich.
“The pandemic has given people the opportunity to contemplate what they want to put back into their lives. Corporate social responsibly will be a key driver of brand loyalty.”
— Alison King, President, Media Profile, Toronto
“Make every new year a time to grow and expand your horizons. In 2021, it’s time to embrace uncertainty, operate with agility and be a force of calm, resilience and assurance for your clients and teams, so they too will grow and expand their horizons.”
— John Walker, Managing Partner, Chirp, Atlanta
“In 2021, I think companies will continue to search for ways to authentically include a variety of voices at the decision-making table. There will be a shift from working toward diversity to working to achieve equity and inclusion. Companies will rediscover their company purpose and value statements. These statements will serve as their foundation as they seek to become better community partners and stronger community advocates.”
— LaTricia Harper Woods, APR, Founder, Mahogany Xan Communications, Phoenix
“I believe the foundations of public relations will be even more relevant in a year following so much social and cultural change. Organizations will no longer be able to succeed without putting strategic communications first and foremost in all of their business decision-making.”
— Natalie Ghidotti, CEO, Ghidotti, Little Rock, Ark.
By Brenda Jones Barwick, APR
Reprinted with permission from Strategies & Tactics and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA.org), 2021.